2006 Penn Women's Rowing
Saturday, March 18, 2006 - Clemson, S.C.
Penn vs. Clemson/Indiana/ Purdue/Marist - 9 a.m. (varsity), 9:30 a.m. (second varsity), 10:30 a.m. (varsity 4's)
Penn vs. Clemson - Noon (varsity), 12:20 p.m. (second varsity), 12:40 p.m. (varsity 4's)
PHILADELPHIA - Following season after season of steady improvement, the Penn women’s rowing team is primed to compete with the nation’s elite programs in the 2005-06 season. Under ninth-year head coach Barb Kirch Grudt, the program has undergone a fundamental change that will allow this young team to push for seats in the top boats and compete at the highest levels.
The Quakers will begin the spring with a pair of races at Clemson on March 18. Penn races Clemson, Indiana, Marist andPurdue starting at 9 a.m., then face off against just Clemson starting at noon.
“The way we structure our team is different than any other Ivy League team,” Grudt explained. Penn rowing puts freshmen right into the mix to compete for spots on higher boats rather than requiring them to spend a year in the novice class. “We’ve brought the group together to maximize our resources.”
Now, several years after introducing the change, the program is ready to reap the benefits with a very talented, experienced and youthful squad.
“We want the varsity eight in the Grand Finals this year,” Grudt said, noting her team just missed out on qualifying last year by a boat length. However, the experience is there to improve on last year’s performance, since both varsity four crews medaled in the Eastern Sprints Grand Final without a single graduating senior in either boat.
Although Penn barely missed out on qualifying for the Grand Final, the varsity eight took first in the Petite final, earning a seventh-place finish overall. The squad also returns a varsity four “A” crew that went undefeated in the regular season and placed third at Sprints and the “B” boat that took second.
The Game Plan
Before the Quakers can look ahead to the Grand Finals, Grudt says there are two major goals she would like to achieve in the fall. The first is to do well at the Head of the Charles; the second, the Princeton Chase. She would especially love to see another dramatic improvement at the Charles.
“Last year our goal was 15th and we came in 17th,” she said. “But that was 10 places better than the year before.”
At Princeton, Grudt wants to see the team take a top-three spot in a race that she feels, because of a clear course with few bridges, is the fall’s best indicator of what the team will do in the spring. “If we can do that, I have reason to believe we will be in the Grand Finals,” she says.
The 2005-06 edition of the Quakers will be led by co-captains junior Maura Kelley and senior Zoe Reich. “Kelley had more experience playing basketball and running track when she came in,” says Grudt. “She worked really hard to not only make her way into the J.V. boat, but to get elected captain as a junior. She’s just a super role model for the kids and a true student-athlete.”
Reich will be an equally important part of leading a very young team. “Zoe is a very approachable leader and a strong coxswain,” Grudt said.
Nineteen returning letterwinners will form the core of the team, and, in addition to the strong field of veterans, 29 freshmen will wear the Red and Blue this year. Under Grudt’s innovative program, they will have the opportunity to immediately make an impact on the varsity levels.
“This incoming class has height, great attitudes, and winning experience,” she explained. Grudt also relishes the opportunity to have her sophomores and juniors step up to lead their younger teammates.
“I’ve been waiting for it,” she said. “One of my strategies in combining the program the way I have is that as freshmen, the kids come in understanding what the competitive level of the program is and what the goals are, so they know what it feels like. They’re not insulated. They’ve faced reality from day one. So by their sophomore year, they feel a greater sense of urgency to deal with what’s out there.”
“They understand where Penn women’s crew is and where we want to be, and how close we are,” she continued.
“I think we have the kids that can do it.”
Home Sweet Home
The Quakers will hope to take advantage of aschedule this season that will see them contesttwo spring races on the Schuylkill.
The spring season will open with at Clemson on March 18 and the Red and Blue finish their schedule with two home races against Cornell and Rutgers on April 16 and Princeton and Dartmouth on April 22. EAWRC Sprints will once again take place on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. on May 14.